April O’Neil, this time portrayed by Megan Fox (Transformers, Jonah Hex), is struggling to be taken seriously as a reporter for Channel 6 news. Spending her days doing fitness demonstrations for the camera and being seen as nothing more than afternoon eye candy, even though her goals are far loftier. Amidst a string of crimes carried out by a group calling themselves The Foot Clan, however, it seems she won’t be on the sideline for long. April is probably the weakest part of the film, even though she is predictably the center for nearly all of the plot advancement. Megan Fox may have improved in the time that’s past since she last worked with Bay on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, she still manages to struggle with some of the dialogue, none of which is challenging, and comes off more forced than natural in her turn as the intrepid reporter. The decision to center the plot around her character, though, was not a poor one, as it gives the human element of the film something to do rather than be lost in the shuffle of gigantic CG turtles fighting mercenaries and ninjas for 90+ minutes.
While investigating the activity of the Foot, April naturally comes across our heroes, the now famous four turtles named after classic Renaissance artists, and has her usual freak out moment. The most passionate hatred from fans leading up to the release of TMNT was about the redesign of the Turtles themselves, but I actually quite enjoyed the new look to these now decades old characters. While it takes getting used to, seeing anthropomorphic turtles that now suddenly have nostrils and a more realistic look, as opposed to the bulbous noses we’ve seen in the past, the decision to alter each turtles size and “accessories” helped distinguish their unique characters nicely. All of your favorite examples of each character exist in this new film, Michelangelo is still a party dude, though he’s traded in his break dancing and “Dudes” for “bros” and, well, more dancing. Donatello is far more lithe in this film, and they play up his intelligence to an entirely new level, even going so far as to give him taped thick-rimmed glasses and a ton of technology to lug around, though none of it is explained. Leonardo (curiously cast as Johnny Knoxville) is the stoic leader who does his best to wrangle in his brothers’ wild attitudes, most notably Raphael, who remains the outsider of the group and ever so angry. I do have to admit, while I’ve never been a fan of Raph in the past, this new version was easily my favorite portrayal of him so far. It could be that we didn’t have to go through him being separated from his brothers for very long like before, or simply that, while he remains a cantankerous element, it’s never over-the-top.
The plot of the film plays out exactly as you’d expect, following almost every beat we’ve seen in countless family-friendly action films, complete with an obvious villain reveal and a deus ex machina, though it’s rather sad to find out the motivations behind it. Where TMNT manages to really shine is in it’s action, which should come as no surprise. When all four turtles are together and performing their wonderful kung fu, it’s a thrill ride. Their characters come out nicely during fights, and the CG work with their models is, for the most part, impressive. The highlight of the film is easily the pulse pounding escape down the side of a snowy mountain, even if it went on far too long to be believable, and the final fight with the infamous Shredder doesn’t disappoint, either.
Some people may take umbrage with the way these new turtles look, or even falsely remember the classic films as just that, classics, but in my eyes, this new version does a great job in recapturing the spirit behind these heroes, and keeping it fun for all ages. It takes a few large and ridiculous leaps in logic, seeing as the film starts in Spring and yet a snow-capped mountainside is a short 40 minute drive from Manhattan, and the end game for Shredder and The Foot isn’t well thought out, there’s still much fun to be had throughout Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you don’t go in expecting a masterpiece, you can anticipate walking out pleasantly surprised.